The hardest reality that we, people with cerebral palsy, face today in this world is the steadfast illusions that people without disabilities have about us. It is not what we are, but what they think we are that is the problem. So often it’s less about helping us and more about maintaining control over what we do. It’s less about giving us a boost up and more about holding us back, keeping us where others think we belong. The methods they use to do this are often humiliating and derogatory.
If we speak up, seek legal advice, and voice our concerns, they tell us, “Your thoughts are scattered.” If we push for things that will better our lives, we are “spoiled and unrealistic.”
Our efforts to obtain employment and education are made more difficult because people mistakenly believe that government benefits will take care of all our needs and make us rich. There are organizations that will finance our education, but not in ways that help us become productive members of society. Often training is offered to be used as a distraction or hobby, something to keep us “busy” or “preoccupied.” There is no effort on their part to help us fit into society, by helping us earn a living or degree in our field of choice. Being productive is not considered – the focus is on “practical skills.” These training programs are designed to be reported on forms and written on IHP’s and IPP’s, fulfilling some outdated and, frankly, insulting mandate. There is absolutely no room for choice, discussion, self-governing judgment, triumphs, or exploration of possibilities.
None of this solves the problem or the matter at hand, which is this: those with cerebral palsy have the same dreams and aspirations as any other human being – to find work and activities that are meaningful, that feed their soul, that use their natural skills and abilities, where they feel they are contributing members of their society. Unless we are encouraged and supported to work, live, and play in “normal/typical” society, the preconceived notions of the general public will never change and we will never be able to grow to our full potential.
Unfortunately, we haven’t come as far as people often think. Many people with cerebral palsy are still marginalized, for example – given a cheque each month to stay home and be quiet. This needs to change. We must all do whatever we can to keep our dreams alive and to keep moving forward. If we truly want change to take place in the cerebral palsy community, we can’t give in or quit because it’s too hard! We must continue to keep pushing forward, to fight for our dignity and our rights, as human beings co-existing with everyone else on this plant. We must believe in ourselves and others within the community, helping each other whenever we can. If we don’t, we’ll never change the perceptions of others or make this a better place for you and me! So don’t be afraid to get out there and set an example – BE the example, be a role model for others – show them how it can be done. The possibility of rewards will be enormous, I promise you.